Vaccinations part of back to school preparations in Moffat County |

Vaccinations part of back to school preparations in Moffat County

A vaccination is prepared by a nurse at Northwest Colorado Health in Craig.
Sasha Nelson |

A trip to the doctor could be part of back to school preparations for many students.

“Getting vaccinated, according to the recommended immunization schedule, is one of the most important things a parent can do to protect their child’s health,” said Northwest Colorado Health Nurse Mindy Hayden.

Over $35 million was spent in Colorado in 2015 on emergency room visits for vaccine-preventable diseases, according to the Vaccine Preventable Disease Report, 2016 by the Epidemiology Department at Children’s Hospital Colorado.

The same report ranks Colorado 14th in the nation for childhood vaccination coverage

Over $35 million was spent in Colorado in 2015 on emergency room visits for vaccine-preventable diseases.

“Although vaccine coverage has improved, Colorado still has a significant percentage of children incompletely protected,” Hayden said.

We asked Memorial Regional Health Pediatrician Dr. Kristi Yarmer and Hayden to tell us more about vaccinations.

Why is getting vaccinated important?

Hayden: Diseases can quickly spread among groups of children who aren’t vaccinated. Whether it’s a baby starting at a new child care facility, a toddler heading to preschool, a student going back to elementary, middle or high school — or even a college freshman — parents should check their child’s vaccination records.

Childcare facilities, preschool programs, schools and colleges are prone to outbreaks of infectious diseases. Children in these settings can easily spread illnesses to one another due to poor hand washing, not covering their coughs, and other factors such as interacting in crowded environments.

When children are not vaccinated, they are at increased risk for disease and can spread disease to others in their play groups, child care centers, classrooms and communities – including babies who are too young to be fully vaccinated and people with weakened immune systems due to cancer and other health conditions. Some diseases need up to 95 percent of the population to be immunized to keep the disease from spreading. A great example is the recent Measles outbreak in Minnesota.

What is the difference between immunization and vaccination?

Yarmer: Vaccination is when a vaccine is administered to you. Immunization is what happens in your body after you have the vaccination. The vaccine stimulates your immune system so that it can recognize the disease and protect you from future infection (i.e. you become immune to the infection).

Are vaccinations safe?

Yarmer: Yes. Vaccines are very safe. According, to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “The United States’ long-standing vaccine safety system ensures that vaccines are as safe as possible. Currently, the United States has the safest vaccine supply in its history. Millions of children are safely vaccinated each year. The most common side effects are typically very mild, such as pain or swelling at the injection site.”

How are vaccinations given?

Yarmer: Vaccines are usually administered through needle injections, but can also be administered by mouth or sprayed into the nose.

How can parents reduce the stress and trauma for children undergoing the procedure?

Yarmer: This is dependent on each child. As a pediatrician I depend on the parents in guidance for how best to approach this with each child. For some children letting them know in advance of the appointment that they will be receiving vaccines is important as it gives them time to ask questions and to prepare them before the visit. For other children this may significantly increase their anxiety in the time leading up to the appointment and it is better to talk to them during the visit about what to expect. We often use different techniques to help distract, or help with the pain of injection. For infants hearing a parent’s soothing voice, and seeing their face, during the injection can be helpful. For babies who use a pacifier this can also help. Immediately after vaccines we encourage mom to hold the infant and if the infant is breast-fed we encourage nursing right after vaccines.

For older children reading a book, playing a video game can be helpful during the injections. We offer for younger children to sit on the parent’s lap versus sitting the exam table.

For some older children we have used ice packs on the injection site prior to the vaccine or even having an ice pack on the other arm during the injection can help. Sometimes wiggling the fingers helps children not tense up during the vaccination, which can make it more painful. Often we use slow deep breathing techniques for kids who are really anxious. Often times just talking about something the child is interested in provides good distraction.

 Are there any special considerations for our area?

Yarmer: Nationally and in Colorado we are seeing a higher number of pertussis cases in the past 5 years over previous years. I encourage pertussis vaccination, as Whooping cough, caused by pertussis, is contagious. It can spread easily by coughing or sneezing. Babies often get it from adult family members who do not know they have whooping cough because the cough tends to be less severe in adults. Infants are at the most risk for serious health complications from whooping cough.

Although measles was declared eliminated in the US in 2000, we have been seeing an increased number of measles cases in the US, including Colorado, since 2011. Measles is a viral infection and it is highly contagious.

What vaccinations are recommended for each age group (college, high school, middle school, elementary, pre-K)?

Hayden: Between the time your child is born and when they go off to college, they’ll get vaccines to protect against a number of serious diseases. General Recommendations/Requirements assuming that the child has received vaccines on schedule (may vary depending on past Immunizations and History):

• Pre-K: MMR, Varicella, Polio, and DTaP annual flu

• Elementary: annual flu

• Entry into sixth grade: HPV, Meningitis, Tdap and annual flu

• Between 16 to18 years: Meningitis Booster

• College Men: MenB. This is a new recommendation related to outbreaks of “serogroup B” meningococcal disease reported from college campuses during the last several years.

You can view immunization schedule and school requirements in the “resources” section of our back-to-school immunization webpage:

Do you have any tips to help parents/students keep track of their immunization records?

Hayden: Keep your vaccination records in a safe place, with birth certificates or other important documents.

The Colorado Immunization Information System provides a secure centralized database designed to keep immunization records. You can ask your doctor if they use this system or contact our Public Health Nurses at Northwest Colorado Health with any questions.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know about this topic?

Yarmer: Vaccinations are important to help protect children from vaccine preventable diseases. If someone has questions about vaccine safety, or why certain vaccinations are recommended I would encourage families to look at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

Hayden: In addition to back-to-school vaccines, we recommend children and individuals of all ages get a seasonal flu shot. Vaccine for the upcoming flu season will be available by October.

Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or


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